I recently had the pleasure of photographing saxophonist Bob Reynolds for a book I've been working on for some time now. The book is about jazz musicians and without giving too much away at this stage, it's a mixture of portraiture, documentary and some live performance stuff thrown in for good measure. At this point in time, the project is solely funded by me, which keeps the progress at a steady pace due to the cost of travel and accommodation.
Bob was currently on his European tour to support his latest CD called Quartet, so I reached out to him as he has been on my hit list for a while. Manchester was the preferred date, which suited me fine as it's only a three and a half hour train journey from where I live in Scotland. A journey that turned out to be really great on the TransPennine, with stunning scenery on a lovely sunny day. I love to travel by any means of transport, so the journey is part of the enjoyment.
After arriving at Manchester Piccadilly station, I headed for the hotel (via The Real Camera store to drool over a couple of tempting Leica's (M6 and M7). Credit card still intact and a little lump in my throat, I had lunch at the hotel before making my way to the oddly named venue Band On The Wall to meet Bob and the band.
After the usual meet and greets, I set up my small traveling portrait rig, including two light stands three flashguns, a trigger, and two double-fold umbrellas. The weak part of this travel portrait rig is the background. None of my Lastalite/Manfrotto collapsible backgrounds fold small enough and I can’t find a small headshot background to suit anywhere. So I'm using a small collapsible reflector that my friend John Summers gave me and I clamp a piece of black velvet material to it. It's a bit time consuming and doesn’t look very professional. But it gets the job done
With the portrait shots complete, we went downstairs and I made a few documentary-style pictures in the dressing room as Bob selected a batch of possible reeds for that night's gig. I moved around the room, making sure I had plenty of variety in my shots, changing angles, shooting from a low angle, getting something in the foreground, shooting into mirrors etc. I was shooting in RAW+JPEG but I shot a few B&W JPEG's to let Bob see a few pictures on the back of the camera to give him an idea of how they might look.
After a quick trip back to my hotel to drop off my lights and stands etc, I headed back to the Band On The Wall to shoot the gig. The venue was packed so I had limited space to move around and switched from primes to a couple of zooms for that reason (24-85mm and 75-210mm in 35mm terms, both f2.8). It wasn’t the brightest venue I've shot in, so 1/125th sec at f2.8 meant my ISO was around 3200 for the centre of the stage and anywhere between 6,400 and 12,800 for the sides.
The gig was very special in my opinion. The energy between musician and audience was something that you don’t always get with jazz gigs, and it was great to see a younger generation of jazz fan so enthusiastic about the music. Bob also plays in the band Snarky Puppy and obviously has a following that includes quite a few Snarky fans as well as his own fan base, which is no doubt expanded with the popularity of Bob's highly addictive vlog on YouTube.
Pianist Oli Rockberger dept for Ruslan Sirota on the first few gigs of the tour as Ruslan was busy being the best man at his friends' wedding, but Oli played as though he had been a part of the quartet for years (he and Bob went to Berkeley at the same time). Most of the tracks on Quartet are pretty laid back, so it was great to see Chaun Horton being able to let rip on the drums on some really funky numbers, which were made all the funkier with Janek Gwizdala on the bass. Janek also has a great vlog on YouTube, which is based on the bass (see what I did there), but like Bob’s vlog, is enjoyable to both musicians and non-musicians. Janek is a joy to watch on stage. His bass playing is extraordinary and his use of effects pedals is a lot of fun, especially when a looper pedal is involved.
But the last word has to be on Bob. A fine musician/composer with an equal gift of a warm fat tone on the tenor sax with a great technical ability. One minute you’re listening to a beautiful ballad on the bottom end of his Selmer Mk VI and the next you’re being bombarded with amazing altissimo dexterity that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Bob is exactly what you see on his vlog, a really nice guy with a lot of time and respect for others. This shoot was a real pleasure.